The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) returned to Mayport, Fla. April 2, following its first successful deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations. While deployed, Milwaukee, with their embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 402, assisted in disrupting an estimated 915 kilograms of cocaine worth over an estimated street value of over $64 million and removed eight suspected drug traffickers from the narcotics trade. Milwaukee, along with the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 5, deployed on December 14, 2021, to conduct U.S. Southern Command and Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea.
“This was a great experience for the crew, many of whom this was their first deployment,” said Cmdr. Brian Forster, commanding officer of Milwaukee. “We were able to accomplish many great feats including disrupting drug trafficking, working with our allied naval partners, going through the Panama Canal and even crossing the equator. The crew that is returning is a very different crew that left months ago. They have seen many aspects of the world and different cultures including the cuisine. We will continue to grow, not just as Sailors, but as Americans and keep our Navy the strongest in the world.”
Milwaukee was the first to deploy with the MQ-8C Fire Scout, the Navy’s upgraded variant of the unmanned aircraft. Fire Scout was used to identify targets of interest and refine surveillance data of existing targets of interest, allowing for enhanced capabilities for counter illicit drug trafficking missions. Milwaukee conducted three bilateral maritime exercises with Jamaica, Martinique, and Ecuador to strengthen partnerships and build interoperability between forces. Additionally, Milwaukee transited the Panama Canal, crossed the equator and visited Manta, Ecuador to build lasting relationships with the Ecuadorian navy and conduct counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Eastern Pacific.
During the port visit to Manta, the ship conducted military to military engagements and hosted the Mayor of Manta, Agustin Quijano, commander of the Jaramijó Naval Base, Capt. Diego Espinosa, and members of the Ecuadorian navy for a tour. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.